Western diplomats are deeply alarmed after a classified briefing given at the UN by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reports, after some of the contents of IAEA findings which said the Iranians were intent on pursuing a major step toward nuclear weapons production had been leaked earlier last month. The new IAEA findings say Iran has now acted on its prior "threat" to produce uranium metal.
"In contravention of the 2015 nuclear accords, Iran has started producing uranium metal, a material that can be used to form the core of nuclear weapons, the United Nations atomic agency told members in a confidential report Wednesday evening," WSJ reports.
The IAEA is alleging the small amount of uranium metal was produced by the first time on February 8 at the Isfahan nuclear facility.
The breaking WSJ report notes further:
The Iranian threat to produce uranium metal had alarmed Western diplomats because the material crosses over from uranium enrichment, which can be used for civilian purposes, and is a core component of nuclear weapons.
As we reported last month, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharib Abadi essentially admitted Iran is planning to take this significant step, however, he insisted at the time that the activities "related to the design of an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor," which is used for peaceful energy purposes.
IAEA said in the latest findings: "The Agency on 8 February verified 3.6 gram of uranium metal at Iran's Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) in Esfahan."
Here's the Iranian IAEA official positively announcing intent to pursue uranium metal production last month:
R&D activities related to the design of an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor started. Natural uranium will be used to produce uranium metal in the first stage. @iaeaorg received the updated DIQ for Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant and conducted an inspection.— Gharibabadi (@Gharibabadi) January 13, 2021
The manufacture of uranium metal is prohibited under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, which Biden on the campaign trail had vowed to return to, but which has since been stalled as Washington is demanding Iran "return" to the deal's stipulations first.
That Iran appears to have now accomplished uranium metal production appears a dramatic move aimed fundamentally at increasing leverage with Biden administration as each side demands the other comes back into conformity with the JCPOA first.
Tehran has since slammed White House 'hypocrisy' given it was the US side which clearly tore up the deal under Trump.
Iranian leaders have also of late gone so far as to say they'll pursue a nuke "if backed into a corner". It now seems Tehran now sees itself in that proverbial "corner".